Facebook Pixel

The Best Types of Foods to Eat Before and After Working Out

By HERWriter
Rate This
The Best Types of Foods Before and After Working Out Dirima/Fotolia

Should we eat before a workout? Or wait until after? The answer is: both.

“Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time,” the American College of Sports Medicine said, according to the American Heart Association's website Heart.org.

Here are important reasons to eat pre- and post-workout, and a selection of the best types of food for each:

Want to burn more fat? Researchers found that sedentary females did just that during a workout when they ate something low on the glycemic index before working out — think apple, banana or some nuts. The women also felt fuller later in the day.

This study was published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Lori Rice, a nutritionist told Fitstar.com that “another reason to eat pre workout is that fuel pays off. People can exercise at a higher intensity and for longer periods.”

Before your work out, eat carbohydrates. Carbs break down into glucose, enter our muscle cells, and provide fuel — or energy — to exercise at maximum capacity, as Jessica Jones MS, RD, a dietitian, explained to Self Magazine. Without enough glucose during your workout, expect to feel weak, tired and unmotivated to continue.

Mixing complex and simple carbs allows the release of energy during your workout to be slow and steady. Try whole-wheat toast with fruit jam to get both types of carbs. Bonus: it’s easily digestible.

Other options are brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain cereals , fruits and vegetables.

Add protein. It’s particularly important for weight training. When we exercise, small tears in our muscle fibers are created. It’s protein’s job to help muscles heal and grow stronger. Types of protein include nuts, Greek yogurt, turkey, eggs, milk and soy milk.

So what about post-workout? Glycogen serves as a form of energy storage and after working out, your muscles are depleted of it. You want to eat something that combines carbohydrates and protein to refill energy stores, build and repair your muscles that were broken down, and help keep your metabolism burning strong, advised Shape.com.

Your post-workout meal should be high in complex carbohydrates like green or starchy vegetables, whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. And include a healthy protein like chicken, fish, tofu, lentils or a protein shake. As is the case with your pre-workout food, eating protein after a workout helps with muscle recovery.

FitnessMagazine.com suggested something post-workout that may be more of a treat. Chocolate milk has carbs and protein for muscle recovery, water content to restore fluids lost as calcium and sweat, as well as sodium and sugar.

When and what you eat is as important as exercise. Both are essential so your body is at its best before and after working out.

Reviewed June 13, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN

"What to Eat Before and After a Workout." Fitness Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Food as Fuel - Before, During and After Workouts. Food as Fuel - Before, During and After Workouts. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Jones MS RD, Jessica. Pre & Post Workout Snacks: What a Registered Dietician Says You Should Eat. SELF. N.p., 2016. Web. 06 June 2016.

Rice, Lori. "Should I Exercise on an Empty Stomach? - FitStar - Inspiring People to Live Healthier Lives." FitStar Inspiring People to Live Healthier Lives Should I Exercise on an Empty Stomach Comments. N.p., 2014. Web. 10 June 2016.

Tobin, Nora. The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Workout. Shape Magazine. N.p., 2012. Web. 06 June 2016.

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I think a lot of folks miss out how useful carbs really are before a work out and also are pretty clueless on its various types. I always try to have a light carb based meal a little before the workout, or at least keep a banana or two handy if nothing else. Splendid article though, nuanced and with some rich details on actual research.. Loved it.

I don't know if it's something others would already know, but I wrote a few notes down on food and recipes for weight loss recently over here..

It's primarily vegan stuff and quite simple recipe lists for everyone to try, well very little recipe honestly.


June 23, 2016 - 3:57am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Healthy Eating

Get Email Updates

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!